Eastern Coalition for LGBT Equality is outraged with the threats of violence made and charges pressed by Ukrainian far-right groups against Olena Shevchenko, Executive Director of the Insight LGBTQ NGO, following the peaceful demonstration held in Kiev on 8th of March, 2018.
The peaceful march dedicated to the International Women’s Day was aimed at mobilizing women, feminist and queer activists and protesting against the widespread violence against women in Ukraine. The demonstration was attacked by the far-right groups armed with sticks, paint and tear gas. At least 7 participants were injured, several of whom intend to press charges.
In addition to the attack, the ultra-radical group called National Druzhina (Національні дружини) pressed charges against Olena Shevchenko, in her capacity as one of organizers of the demonstration and demanded that she be prosecutred under the Article 185-1 of the Administrative Offences Code of Ukraine, for ’’violating the procedure of holding peaceful assemblies.’’ According to plaintiffs, Shevchenko violated the above-mentioned law by allowing a poster insulting national symbols in the march. The poster in question, represented a woman’s body attacked by different powerful groups and institutions in the society, including state, organized religion and right-wing groups. The latter were portrayed in the poster in the form of the logo used by the far-right group National Druzhina which is similar but not identical to the Ukrainian national coat of arms the Trident.
Olena Shevchenko appeared in court on March 12, but the hearing was interrupted and Shevchenko was evacuated by a private security company together with her lawyer Oksana Guz, because of the large number of aggressive right wing activists that had gathered on the premises. Neither court security, nor police took any action. The judge’s recommendation was simply to stay in the building. The court hearing was rescheduled and held on March 15th.
We are relieved that all charges against Olena Shevchenko were dropped during today’s court hearing, but are nontheless concerned with the rising oppression of civil society in our region - illustrated by this case. As in many other instances in which women and LGBTQ people try to exercise freedom of assembly and expression, the law enforcement agencies failed to take action against the attackers of the peaceful demonstration and perform their positive obligation to protect the right to freedom of assembly of Ukrainians concerned with violence against women. It is also alarming that the state seems to passively accept the attempt of the ultra-right groups to conflate their own logos with national symbols and thus spread the idealized and patriotic image of themselves, in the face of the current political situation in Ukraine.
The events described above are alarming not only for Ukraine, but also for the region encompassing Eastern Partnership countries and Russian Federation, where we can observe and experience increasingly shrinking space for civil society, rising wave of far right mobilisation and, to large extent, the lack of political will on the part of governments to tackle these issues and protect the rights of vulnerable groups.
We, the representatives of Eastern Coalition for LGBT Equality call on:
The Ukrainian authorities to:
· Properly investigate the attack on the peaceful demonstration of 8th of March;
· Properly investigate the threats of violence that Olena Shevchenko is receiving from the far-right;
The international organizations, diplomatic missions and UN and
EU structures with human rights portfolio to
· Apply pressure on Ukrainian authorities reminding them of the obligations taken by Ukraine in the face of international community, including but not limited to the Association Agreement with the EU;
· Apply pressure on Ukrainian authorities to ensure physical safety of Olena Shevchenko and her family and colleagues;
· Take a decisive stance against violation of freedom of assembly and shrinking civic space, a clear tendency in the region as a whole.